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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Tash is a professional writer who loves helping people communictae clearly and effectively.

Digital financial communications

What do you do with the annual reports, product disclosure statements and other disclosure materials you’re sent by banks, super funds and similar organisations?

Hard copy rubbish

If you’re like many people, you put them in the recycling (or normal) bin – possibly without even reading it first.

This is annoying because

  1. it is a waste of paper and thus a burden on the environment
  2.  it is a waste of money to print and mail the documents – and guess who pays for that waste?

Going digital

communications_choicesA few years ago, legislation changed so that financial instructions can send some disclosure information electronically. That could be as an email attachment, an email linking to an online resource or even an SMS containing a link.

However, the super funds and banks could only do this if you consented to getting it electronically.

New digital rules

Under a new ASIC guidance, financial organisations in Australia can send disclosure materials to their customers/members by default.

That is, they will need to notify customers/members that “certain information will be provided by {explain electronic method} unless you opt out within 7 days of this notice.”

So once such organisations set up this notification and opt out system, we can all expect to receive such notices and then get fewer hard copy disclosure materials.

Going back to my first question – do you keep hard copies of such materials? If so, will you opt out of electronic communications now there is a clear choice?

If you were a financial organisation, would you swap to sending digital communications instead of hard copies?

Control pop up ads

I just visited a blog for the first (and probably last!) time.

As soon as I got to the URL, a pop up opened to promote something I assume they get a commission or payment for. There was a x on the pop up so I was able to close it fairly easily at least.

I hate pop ups at the best of times (and am annoyed that many get past pop up blockers but that’s another story!) so it doesn’t make me like a site when I get a pop up so quickly. But I sigh and move on.

girl yelling through megaphone at boy reading

People learn to block out too much noise and refuse to be distracted.

Frequency of pop ups

On this particular site, I closed the pop up and then clicked on a link to see the most recent blog post.

As soon as the blog post opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the about us page opened, so did another pop up.

As soon as the registration page (clicked on by mistake!) opened, so did another pop up!

Seeing the same pop up that many times is NOT making me more likely to click on it let alone spend money on whatever is being advertised.

Topics of pop ups (and other ads)

I understand that running a blog has costs and people want to make a bit of money back from their blog if possible. Ads and affiliate links are one way to cover some blogging costs.

But surely it’s more effective if the ads are aimed at the target audience of the blog?

In my example above, the site is about cooking but the pop up was about web hosting.

Obviously, some people are interested in both cooking and running a website. But can you assume most people looking up recipes and cooking tips will be interested in hosting a website?

I think a pop up for cooking books, online shops for herbs and other ingredients, or even online retailers of cooking tools would interest more of the blog’s visitors. And thus earn the blogger more money – or the advertiser more relevant exposure.

The lesson learned?

Ok, I already knew this but the lesson from my example is to control any pop up advertising on your blog or website.

  1. only show the ad a few times – if someone says no after that, they’ll probably always say no
  2. make your ads relevant to your audience. If not immediately apparent why it should interest that audience, make the ad itself provide a link.

So what do you think of website pop ups?

Do you use (and hopefully control) pop ups on your site? If so, what response have you got from them?

Take care with huge claims!

It will be my son’s birthday soon and we’ve been looking for a  present for him – he adores Lego so we want to get him some miscellaneous bits to play with as well as the sets he already has.

Our search moved onto eBay where we found some listings for bulk lots of Lego.

large pile of Lego peices of various colours and sizes

My son has a lot of Lego – yet I wouldn’t describe it as a huge bulk lot of Lego!

A few items suited what we wanted and we placed some bids.

Other items didn’t suit so we moved on.

A number of items listed as ‘huge bulk lot’ (yes, there were more than four or five of them! And all seemingly from the same seller) amazed us 🙂

Over promising doesn’t get the sales

What does huge mean? It is something of great size or quantity.

And what does bulk mean? Again, it is about size and, in the context of purchasing items, means a large quantity of something.

So when I look for bulk Lego, I expect hundreds of bricks or even kilograms of Lego.

I don’t consider six wheels or 13 small pieces of Lego to be a ‘huge bulk lot’. Yet the aforementioned seller apparently thinks differently to me!

Needless to say, we’re not interested in buying tiny ‘bulk’ packs of Lego.

Calling his packs of Lego ‘huge bulk lots’ may have attracted people wanting bulk lots – but it wouldn’t be bought by them.

While people after smaller packs of specific bits of Lego wouldn’t necessarily search for bulk packs.

Either way, the seller isn’t using a smart strategy in my opinion.

Over use of adjectives

Adjectives can be useful for providing information and making writing more interesting.

Yet there are two details to remember…

  1. the adjectives need to be honest and actually describe the noun(s)  or the writing just loses credibility
  2. too many adjectives is not helpful. People start to glaze over when there are too many together – I know that in my busy life, I don’t have time to wade through lots of meaningless adjectives to find out the information I really want so I’m less likely to read something that appears hyped up.

 

How’s your business – do you add adjectives to hype up a product or keep them to a meaningful minimum? Maybe you have tested it and found lots of adjectives sells more – if so, I’d love to hear your experiences!

Production English

Last night I heard of production English for the first time and am quite fascinated with it.

New country, new language

When many people arrive in Australia, they learn English to be able to communicate with other people who live here. English classes teach them things like ‘hello, how are you?’, ‘can I please buy…?’ and ‘where is the library?’

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I assume the same thing happens for most people who move to a country with a language different to their own.

welcome into a pit - an unexpected sign

How would you interpret this situation if you couldn’t read much English? Safety can be jeopardised if people can’t read or understand notices.

What about less generic language?

The challenge really starts when people need more specific language – the words and phrases you don’t get in beginner classes.

For instance, trying to follow a procedure or read instructions on machinery can be quite difficult if you only have basic English.

Especially once you consider grammar and similar words (that is, homonyms and other potentially confusing words that I define in Monday Meanings) can make it even harder to understand – just like pilots can have trouble if English is not their native tongue.

The story I heard last night was about a group of people who work well at their jobs but are sometimes limited or put at risk by the fact that they don’t have ‘production English’ to help them at work.

Obviously, ensuring that procedures and instructions are written as simply and clearly as possible is one aspect – and still a very important task.

Yet it is also critical to help such people learn relevant words in English. And there are programs in Melbourne now that are working on solving this issue, at least for some groups of immigrants.

Does your business have procedures or instructions that would be challenging for someone with only basic English?

 

* Image courtesy of 123RF

Blog layout to help readers

It’s easy to be reminded that the look of your blog can affect readership. But there is one little design tool I hadn’t thought much about – I wonder if I’m the only one?

I came across an old blog post on what appears to be a prosperous blog. It was an interesting post but very much an introduction to a topic so I was interested to read more. In fact, the post ended with a comment like “Next time I’ll tackle how to do this”.

Links to previous and next blog posts

Next post is very handy

I couldn’t find the next post on the topic.

The blogger didn’t go back and add a link after he wrote the next post (assuming he actually he did write it!), didn’t give the title of the new post in the first post and the blog layout did not include a ‘next post’ or ‘previous post’ link on the page.

I take the next post link for granted really and don’t think about it much. Does your blog have it?

Do you find it strange when blogs don’t have such navigation links?

Many times I read a blog and ignore the next/previous because I just read one post or I want to read about a topic so use the search function rather than read in sequential order. Yet today I discovered a very important use of this navigation tool.

From now, I value the next/previous post link much more and would never publish a blog without it. Would you?

Choosing titles carefully

Maybe it’s just me, but I always prefer to learn things myself before I get a sales pitch from someone, so I always look at a company’s website before I speak to them.

I just received an email which was about a tool I could potentially use for one of my clients. So I went to their website to find out more about this tool.

As it turns out, I couldn’t find anything about the tool on their site – and I didn’t really like the site much to be honest, but that’s a different story!

Latest news

Spiders and webs over a news key

Old news doesn’t have the power of fresh news – be careful with the expectations you build

Whilst on one page, a comment about them moving caught my eye. It was actually a heading to a news item, showing as a news feed under the title of ‘Latest News’.

Next to the heading was the date of the news item – March 2012. Not exactly a recent move then!

All the other news items in the rotation were older, dating from late 2011 to early 2012.

Staying current

News that is over two years old isn’t fresh or current.

I get that keeping a website/blog/social media platform up to date can be hard work and takes a lot of dedication (hey, I know I haven’t blogged very often this year myself!)

However, it doesn’t look good to prospective clients if the supposedly fresh part of the site is very old. In fact, being years old can look worse than not having a blog or such at all.

The lack of freshness can be minimised though by a careful choice of title.

‘Latest news’ leads people to expect current stories – two year old stories looks unprofessional and made me wonder if the business could deliver promised digital solutions.

Some better titles may have been:

  • things of note
  • points of interest
  • our news archive
  • our blog posts
  • {company name} updates
  • {company name} news

Although the news and updates titles still give some expectation of fairly current stories.

My next blog post will give other suggestions for improving such a situation, but in the meantime, what other titles can you think of for an old news feed?

How would you react to such old news when assessing a potential supplier’s website?

Grammar makes for a busy pharmacist!

Last night I saw a TV ad for some (legal) drugs for children’s colds.

Pharmacist checking labels on drug boxes.

Pharmacists must pay careful attention to details…

It was nothing particularly out of the ordinary until I read the fine print at the end, which was grammatically poor.

For children under two years, contact the pharmacist.

Obviously there is only one pharmacist we could ask – must be a mighty busy person though if we only have one in Australia!

The grammar…

In short, using the word ‘the’ implies there is one so we correctly write ‘the Prime Minister is visiting the Governor General’.

When used as an article for a noun, the word ‘the’ signifies that the relevant noun is either unique or somewhat special. For example, the Tour de France is the long distance bike race – obviously, there are other long distance bike races but the Tour De France is the ultimate and best known one so using ‘the’ emphasises its importance.

So the ad would have been better telling us to contact ‘your pharmacist’ or ‘a pharmacist’.

 

* Image courtesy of 123rf

also comes after

Reading and editing a document recently, I came across the following text as the first paragraph in a new section of the document:

We will also deal with your request for access…

Apple resting on paper as a hand writes

‘Also bring an apple’ comes after ‘bring pen and paper’ or else ‘also’ makes no sense.

So today’s Monday Meaning is for one word instead of a pair of words.

Also [adverb]: as well as, too, in addition, besides
Please bring pen and paper. Also bring a snack.

Getting back to the example above, it is wrong because ‘we’ can’t ‘also’ deal with a request if ‘we’ aren’t already dealing with something for you.

Words like also and too must follow, or come after, something rather than being the first item in a list.

 

Facebook ads – short but important

Proof reading is important – even for short and (relatively) simple things like a Facebook ad.

A Facebook ad that needs proof reading

Unfortunately my screenshot didn’t work (and the ad hasn’t shown again since!) but I saw an ad this morning that seriously needed some help…

Proof read short pieces of writing

Even short pieces of text need to be proof read – or risk embarrassment

The heading of the ad was “New year. New hom.”

For a major company involved in real estate sales, you’d think home is an important word to get right.

I’d also have expected a company of that size to have a process of checking and approving ads before they go live – a one-person business is often at bigger risk of such errors because it is harder to correct your own writing.

The body of the ad included “but hurry – offer ends 28 February!”

Perhaps they meant hurry into your time machine?

That isn’t necessarily a proof reading error (unless they actually got the date wrong!) as it may be an incorrect setting on when the ad is to be run. Either way, attention to detail can have a big impact!

Proof reading matters…

We all do it – we write something and assume it is written exactly as we meant it to be.

But between typing mistakes (typos), thinking faster than we can type and actual spelling/grammatical errors, it is easy to have text that is not exactly what we wanted.

So we need to check our writing for errors. ALL our writing, whether short or long, whether technical, legally required or marketing, whether online or offline. It’s that simple!

And the key proof reading rules are to get someone else to check it and leave some time between the writing and proof reading.

Oh, and don’t rely on spell check to find all your errors, either. For example, in this post I typed ‘won’ instead of ‘own’ and a spell check would have accepted that as fine.


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Keep it simple…

Dripping tap in a house

Simple but clear – this image tells a story without trying to impress or be more than it is. This makes for good communication.

The purpose of the written word is to communicate.

Sometimes that does include some complexity but I strongly believe it should be kept as simple as possible. Why make people work hard at understanding and increase the risk of misunderstanding?

I recently came across the following:

Email us to inform us about updates regarding your personal information.

And it struck me how some people try to impress and seem ‘professional’ by using complexity when it really isn’t needed. In the example above, why not just write:

Email us with any changes to your contact details.